The skills required to achieve this
There are many different competencies within the Microsoft Partnership program, each having a specific set of requirements to achieve. These requirements are fulfilled in numerous ways including passing Microsoft certification exams, customer testimonials, submitting developed work for Microsoft testing and evaluation, or reselling certain volumes of Microsoft products and services. For example, to achieve our Gold competency in Application Development we were required to have team members pass several exams covering areas such as Microsoft Azure and Web services, Azure development and administration, and Web and mobile development. Smart-IS currently holds Microsoft Gold competencies in Application Development, Application Integration, Data Analytics, and Data Platform as well as a Silver competency in Cloud Platform with more competencies currently under way.
Time/ effort that it takes to get certified:
From an administrator’s viewpoint the Microsoft partnership program has been streamlined over the past few years and takes minimal effort to maintain our Microsoft partnership. Almost all the effort involved is from our team members: studying for and taking the assessments and exams. In that sense, it’s just like going back to school, it all depends on how the individual learns and the subject at hand. I have taken and passed certification exams with only a few hours of work when I was very familiar with the product, such as my certifications in Windows Server and Hyper-V. On the other hand, when needing a certification in SharePoint administration, I spent closer to 50 hours studying and taking exams, because so much of it was new to me. When looking at what it took to attain our Gold Partnership and the various competencies we earned, the effort for the entire organization over the years is certainly into the hundreds of hours.
Benefits of Becoming a Gold Member
There is almost too much to list. While it is true that Microsoft Partnership members do pay a yearly subscription fee, the value of the software, licensees, and support we receive in return far exceeds the cost. Our developers have access to nearly all Microsoft software for development and testing purposes, including beta releases. All the different versions and releases of Windows OS, SQL server, SharePoint, and Office that you could imagine are there, ready for them to use. Additionally, we receive a monthly allotment of credits that we can use towards Azure services, as long as, those services are used for development purposes.
One of the most valuable benefits to Smart-IS is that we receive Microsoft 365 licenses for our users. We actually get enough Office 365 E3 licenses to cover everyone in the organization. The value of that alone exceeds what we pay in subscription costs. Another example is we recently migrated over to Teams Voice and the first 3 months of service was practically no cost with all of the trial licenses available to us.
In addition to all the software benefits, there is a full complement of services offered to us as well. Training, marketing, sales, and promotional materials are just the beginning, and new offerings are being added regularly. Aside from all the wonderful access to Microsoft products and services, the most important part of all is that what it means to our customers. We are Microsoft Gold Partners, meaning our customers can be assured that we have the level of skill and experience that meets Microsoft’s highest standard.